Friday, 25 March 2011

Malaysian Black Pepper Tofu

A few months ago, my neighbours who happen to be Malaysian Muslims knocked on our door to give us a couple of bowls of celebratory dishes they had made for Eid. Both dishes contained halal meat. I was going to accept them just out of sheer politeness, but I knew in my heart she would ask how we found them and I would not be able to lie, and you know how one little white lie can grow. So I was upfront and honest and told her it was very kind of her, but I could not accept either dishes as we were both primarily vegetarian. She was understanding and nodded politely. During our polite conversation about food in general, I did tell her that the only Indonesian and Malay cuisine I had ever tried was Nasi Goreng.

Anyway, speaking to her again this weekend got me thinking about Malay cuisine. I thought it was time for me to try something different. A long while ago, I remembered seeing a recipe for 'Malaysian Black Pepper Crab' and thinking to myself, I could substitute the mud crabs for 'vegetarian prawns' (made from seaweed extract, gluten wheat, salt and spices). But today I decided on firm tofu. The original recipe has a few ingredients I don’t have to hand such as salted soy beans. Ordinarily I’d be happy to pick up ingredient but I am trying my utmost to use what I have at home, so I omitted this from the recipe as well dried prawns. My Malaysian neighbour would so not approve of this omission, as dried prawns are an essential seasoning ingredient in most Malay dishes. I also reduced the chillies, and that's unusual for me, but even with my high chilli tolerance levels I don’t think I could handle 10 – 12 red birds eyes chilli. No way. Finally, I substituted the fresh curry leaves with a handful of fresh coriander leaves. I know what your thinking - with all these changes to the recipe its hardly Malaysian - well let's just say its Malaysian cuisine inspired.

This 'Black Pepper Tofu' dish was really delicious: rich and intense in flavour. I don't know what it was about it, but the combination of red chilli and black pepper was almost addictive. The tofu tastes gorgeous too, with the crisp outer skin and soft inside. Oh I wish I had taken a photograph of the shallots and red chillies whilst they were being sauteed, as the ingredients in the pan were very different in colour up until the soy sauce, oyster sauce and black pepper went in, instantly turning the entire contents in the pan ink black

Malaysian Black Pepper Tofu
Serves 2 - 3
300g tofu
Oil for deep frying
Cornflour for coating

2 tablespoons butter
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons black pepper, freshly ground
5 - 6 red birds-eye chilies, chopped
2 tablespoons black soy sauce
1 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
Handful of fresh coriander, stalks removed
MethodFirst slice the tofu horizontally so you have two pieces, then chop into cubes. Toss them in cornflour, shaking off the excess. In a wide frying pan, pour in enough vegetable oil to come the sides of the pan, and bring up to frying heat. Fry the tofu in batches in the oil, turning now and again so that they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to a paper towel.

In another pan, melt butter and put in shallots, garlic, red chilli slices. Saute till soft, then add the sauces, sugar, black pepper and heat for a couple of minutes, before gently stirring in the tofu pieces and the coriander. Cook for a minutes or so for the tofu to warm through. Serve immediately with plain white rice. Recipe adapted from RasaMalaysia via Authentic Recipes from Malaysia


  1. I have never eaten tofu.
    Wishing you a great weekend ♥

  2. What an interesting and delicious looking dish! Great substitution!

  3. This looks amazing! What are birds-eye peppers?

  4. THis looks FABULOUS!!!! I have got to try this one out. The sauce looks so flavorful! This is how tofu is done RIGHT!!!

  5. This sounds like a great recipe MC. I almost never eat tofu, but must admit to not having tried it fried... I will have to have a go.

  6. I'm Malaysian! : ) That's really quite similar to the Malaysian dish, well, it does look similar : D Except that of course, in the non-vegetarian version, people would take the liberty to add in dried prawns and some meat as well. : ) Awesome veg-adaptation! : D

  7. That sounds awesome n looks really appetizing..will bookmark this recipe :)

    US Masala

  8. The black food makes for something unusual and would look really good with a green salad. I bet it tasted good.

  9. What a wonderfully creative dish! As are all that I viewed here today on my first visit. Such interesting attractive food. Glad I came . . . I'll be back. And thanks for visiting me.

  10. You are very creative using the black pepper crab for black pepper tofu. I sometimes don't use dried prawns on some Malaysian recipe that used them and don't find that it is a problem at all because I forgot them;-). It still resemble and taste similar like the authentic dish even without dried shrimps. I might write tofu on my next grocery list.

  11. that looks so delicious! i didn't know there was such a thing as vegetarian oyster sauce.

  12. Thanks Ana.
    Try cooking the tofu this way with a little spice (without the sauce). Imagine tofu popcorn. I think you'll like it.

    Thanks yummychunklet.

    Birds-eye chillies are the smallest of red chillies, they are one of the hottest.

    Thank you so much Morgan.
    Please do try this out - def. a recipe for Adults!

    Thanks Ali.
    Please try tofu this way, it will change your approach to tofu all together.

  13. Thank you so much Sarah Sue.
    I am so pleased that you approve. I have to admit I was a little nervous with all the substitutions.

  14. Thanks Choclette.

    Thank you so much for repaying the visit Rosemary.

  15. Thank you so much for your comment Malay-Kadazan girl. I really enjoyed reading about your own cooking experience.

    Thank you Emily.
    Yes there are a couple of Vegetarian Oyster sauces available in the U.K. Below is a link to one.

    Thank you Alessandra.

  16. wow that is a lot of black pepper - is that what turns it so black? sounds a little spicy - I once had a very bland salt and pepper tofu - this looks much more interesting

  17. Thanks Johanna.
    Yes it is the black pepper and sauces that turn the dish almost black. The black pepper is not overwhelming, its just right - any more and it may have blown my head off.

    I've seen recipes for tofu black pepper and salt, but they are often accompanied with other side dishes. So I may give it a go some day soon, as I liked the tofu crisped this way.

  18. A Malaysian dish!!! I agree with Sarah Sue, if I didn't know the ingredients I'd have thought they really were. It looks good. I'm not partial to Tofu, but it's pretty common to find it as part of a dish in most Malaysian diners.

    Btw I think it is really nice of you to reply personally to each and every comment- considering that there are always a lot flooding in!

  19. Thank you so much Sumaiyyah Abidah for your lovely comment.

    I am so pleased your approve of my adaptation of this Malay diseh with the tofu. I'm not that keen on tofu, but it can be enhanced with other ingredients and the flavours in this dish make it a real star.

    I'd also like ot say Thank you so much for choosing to become a follower. I am always humbled.

  20. Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering at this recipe! I'm always on the lookout for new tofu recipes as I tend to just stick with a deep fried tofu in spicey tomato sauce that we all love ....I will definitely be trying this one tomorrow night! :)

  21. Nutty Gnome,
    Please please let me know how you find it. I am looking forward to making it again, as we both really liked the intense flavours in this dish.

  22. Thanks for this lovely post. I cook one really similar, it's a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, it's totally gorgeous! So great to find out the origin of this dish. I ran out of cornflour once when making it and so dipped the tofu in polenta, now I prefer it that way it goes really crispy. Lovely site thanks.

  23. Thank You Kate,
    Fortunately All My Malaysian readers have strongly approved of my vegetarian version of Black Pepper Crab, for which I was delighted. I have seen Ottolenghi's version and have a sneaky feeling he may have adapted a similar recipe the same way I had - veganising or vegifying a meaty/fishy dish. This way of cooking, of course is new to vegetarians or vegans who have been doing it a long while. Still he has got people (inc. vegetarians) who wouldn't entertain eating tofu to try it with his version.

    I will keep in mind your recommendation for the polenta coating, sounds lovely. Thank you.


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